3-D MAKES BIG COMEBACK

The majority of moviegoers who saw Beowulf over the weekend sought out 3-D theaters to see it in, Paramount indicated Sunday. Although the film played in just 740 theaters equipped with digital 3-D projectors, the film earned twice as much in those theaters than in all the rest combined. In all, the film grossed $28.1 million -- a figure that came in at the low end of analysts' expectations. Nevertheless, Paramount marketing and distribution chief Rob Moore told today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times: "This will do great work in terms of convincing exhibitors that they should be investing in 3-D technology." In second place was Jerry Seinfeld's animated Bee Movie, with $14.3 million. Another family flick, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, opened in fifth place with $10 million. But the film that impressed the most was Oscar-touted No Country for Old Men, which came in in seventh place with $3.1 million despite the fact that it had expanded into only 148 theaters. According to estimates, the Coen Bros. film averaged $20,932 per theater; by contrast, the No. 1 film, Beowulf, opened with $8,912 per theater.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. Beowulf, $28.1 million; 2. Bee Movie, $14.3 million; 3. American Gangster, $13.2 million; 4. Fred Claus, $12 million; 5. Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, $10 million; 6. Dan In Real Life, $4.5 million; 7. No Country for Old Men, $3 million; 8. Lions for Lambs, $3 million; 9. Saw IV, $2.3 million; 10. Love in the Time of Cholera, $1.9 million.

AFTER THANKSGIVING TABLE, THE NEGOTIATING TABLE

Striking members of the Writers Guild of America and members of Hollywood's movie and TV studios announced over the weekend that they had agreed to resume formal talks after the Thanksgiving holiday. The Wall Street Journal gave credit to Bryan Lourd, co-chairman of the Creative Artists Agency, for acting as mediator in bringing the two sides back to the negotiating table. Jonathan Handel, a former guild lawyer who has been critical of the current WGA negotiators, told Bloomberg News, "I hope it's the beginning of the triumph of sense. ... They've shown a basic difficulty to even talk civilly." In a message to members posted on the WGA site, WGA West President Patric Verrone said, "Returning to the bargaining table is only a start. ... Our work is not done until we achieve a good contract and that is by no means assured." For his part, Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said, "The AMPTP is prepared to negotiate if the Writers Guild seriously expects that a deal can be made."

CODE RED ON DA VINCI CODE PREQUEL

Word of renewed negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers came as Sony's Columbia Pictures announced that it would delay production of the Da Vinci Code prequel, Angels & Demons, due to the strike. It represented the first movie casualty of the strike. In a statement, the studio said that while it regards the current version of the screenplay by Oscar winner Akiva Goldman as "very strong," it does "not believe it is the fully realized production draft required of this ambitious project." The studio had planned to release the film in time for next year's Christmas holiday but has now set a tentative release date of May 15, 2009. Also postponed was United Artists' Pinkville, based on the investigation into the Vietnam War's My Lai massacre, co-written by its director, Oliver Stone. Stone, a member of the WGA, customarily makes script changes while his films are in production -- something he would not be permitted to do while the strike remains in effect. Several analysts have forecast that if other major studio releases are delayed, smaller films from independent filmmakers could be brought up to take their places, representing a boon to indies.

CONSUMER REPORTS RANKS BLU-RAY, HD DVD EQUAL

Not even the venerable Consumer Reports can decide between the rival Blu-ray and HD DVD high-definition video formats. The consumer-product testing publication has ranked Pioneer's DBP-94HD Blu-ray player and Toshiba's HD-XA2 HD DVD player both at No. 1, with an overall score of 91 percent. The publication evaluated nine high-definition players. The magazine commented that all of the players tested provided excellent picture quality. It indicated, however, that the HD DVD players have the advantage of lower price.

CHINA WARNS OF VIRUSES INFECTING UNCENSORED LUST, CAUTION VIDEOS

China is attempting to discourage potential moviegoers from downloading the uncensored version of Ang Lee's Lust, Caution by warning them that the pirated version often contains software viruses. Some seven minutes of explicit sex scenes were removed from the film before it could receive permission to be shown in Chinese theaters. It has nevertheless earned more than $12 million at the Chinese box office, a blockbuster figure in that country. Li Ting of Rising International Software Co. told Reuters that online bootleggers "are taking advantage of popular entertainment hotspots for movies and music to attack personal computers and spread viruses."
Cinemark Movie Club

Brian B.